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I plan to install Ubuntu on a friend's computer on a new hard drive but don't want to break their existing setup in case I can't get it working or they don't like it.

I want to

  • unplug and replace the existing (small) HD containing Windows XP with a new clean HD
  • install Windows and then Ubuntu on a separate partition (dual boot) all on new HD

Then, if something goes wrong... if I simply unplug the new HD and replace with the old Windows HD, will the computer still boot as before? Or, when I install grub2 on the new HD are the computer bios settings changed that will prevent the old HD from booting when it is put back?

BTW: the computer is more than 10 years old (DELL) and can't boot from USB and I failed to boot Ubuntu from a Live CD, despite it working on my own PC.


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Another thing is that it doesn't have to be 2 HDDs, you can run Ubuntu and friends on a Portable HDD as well without any patching or trouble necessary... – Dominic Hayes Jan 6 at 21:23
up vote 0 down vote accepted

You're talking about 2 separate Hard drives. By unplugging the old drive, and replacing with a new one, installing Ubuntu and windows on it, as dual boot should be OK. Now going back to the old Hard drive will work, since both drives have nothing to do with each other. Grub2 resides on the hard drive, and not in the BIOS.

For help on installing Ubuntu and Windows on the same drive, take a look at Windows Dual Boot.

Now if you can't boot from either USB or CD, you may want to consider Network Install, for that check out Ubuntu Installation

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Thanks Mitch - that is what I was hoping. I did not know if the bios on the computer hardware is modified when installing ubuntu so that it knows where to find the boot loader, grub2. Since grub can be installed on any partition it was not obvious to me how the PC bios/firmware would know where to find it. The boot loader in the old hard drive will be in a different place again when I put it back. – Christopher Reeve Jul 13 '13 at 19:38
If this answered your question, you may mark this answer as accepted. – Mitch Jul 13 '13 at 19:43
Sorry - newbie here – Christopher Reeve Jul 13 '13 at 20:59

That sounds fine, you can install Ubuntu on a new HD and transfer it to your friends computer and Ubuntu should boot up without any problems and auto-detect all of their hardware (propriatary drivers will have to be installed on their own system though)...

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I like that idea. I will try it. However, I will have to do that via usb from a laptop and then figure out how to fix grub2 after installing windows. I'm sure there are tutorials for this. Will have a google. – Christopher Reeve Jul 13 '13 at 20:01

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